Your correspondent was looking forward to his first cassoulet of the winter for much of the afternoon today. I was in the garden burning stuff under a pale blue sky, while wondering why the temperature down here is -2 and it isn’t even December yet. But at the same time, the glass-half-full part of my noddle rejoiced in the knowledge that this gave me an excuse to pig out on saussice toulousienne and rich white haricot beans prepared à l’ancien.
The large serendipity tree that fell upon and smashed this hope was the oven, whose thermostat has given up the ghost, and thus now recognises only two speeds, f**king hot, and surface of the sun. When I got back inside (a man made hungry by his endeavours) the kitchen smelt like smoked kippers and looked like the stage just before Madonna makes her entrance through the dry ice. The meal, needless to say, bore a close resemblance to an ancient world victim of the Pompeii v Vesuvius game – during which (I am here to tell you) no prisoners were taken.
But every reverse contains a lesson. And just as Jeremy Hunt’s narrow escape from jail on the subject of BSkyB corruption taught him that looking vulnerable helps when you’re lying, so too it occurred to me that the learnings from this episode were equally clear: things made by nature work for anything from tens to thousands of years, whereas those things made by Man screw up far earlier. Especially when the manufacturer is Chinese Man.
I don’t think there’s much point in a long evidential explanation of that insight, but given that the Flying Trollman is always with us, I will offer some obvious examples: the EU, the Soviet Union, solar garden lights, zips, the Liberal Democrats, Concorde, and laptop batteries.
The consumption-based model of capitalism, of course, would have no existence in reality at all were it not for what an early economic theorist called built-in obsolescence, and I call crap build quality. It is indeed an odd economic system under which turning up for work and getting 0/10 is the foundation upon which survival is built, but then this rule stretches far beyond factories in Dangjong. Let’s be real here: the same applies to pretty much every investment banker on the planet – the more they mess up, the more they get paid.
Since arriving back here in the South-Western Slog White House, I have endured a failed phone, an extinct router, broken saw handles, dead Black & Decker “rechargeable” tools, rotted desks, less than properly implanted dental implants, geriatric door hinges and – perhaps most significant of all – a fridge rendered useless after a lightning strike.
You may not thus far in your lives have viewed lightning as a form of celestial vengeance, but personally I’m warming to the idea. Lightning, I fancy, may well be Mrs God’s way of telling us that we’re not even in the same league as her yet. It’s your call, but personally I am suitably chastened.